I suppose I agreed with her as between fifth and seventh grades, I danced a year with Purelements Dance Company studying modern, jazz and African dance, and took two years of dance class in school.
But, I sing every chance I get, in the shower, in the car, and in echoing spaces such as stairwells. Giving that up completely felt out of the question — dance or no dance. I wound up prioritizing singing over dance in high school as I focused on vocal music. That was the peak of my inner tug of war between dance and song.
Once I got to Cornell, I decided to make time for both singing and dancing. Since the start of my time at Cornell, I’ve been in African Dance Repertoire, the Key Elements A Cappella Group, the Cornell University Chorus, the Cornell University Chamber Singers, and the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers.
Ten-plus hours of rehearsal a week combined with Cornell’s academic workload can be brutal. So, I’ve taken time off from singing and dancing groups as needed during the last four years, but always remaining in at least one performance group.
Upon entering my last semester of undergrad, I decided to focus on three of the five groups: African Dance Repertoire, the chamber singers and the Dorothy Cotton Singers.
The chamber singers perform music I sang in my high school choirs and, therefore, has a nostalgic ring to it. We’re a co-ed group that produces a mostly classical/chant-like sound with a focus on early and contemporary choral music. The group is filled with experienced musicians hand-picked by conductor Stephen Spinelli for their unique talents and demonstrated passion for choral music. I was only in this group for two months, but managed to fall in love with its atmosphere and sound, not to mention that it strengthened my respect and love for conductor Spinelli.
The jubilee singers choir was named in honor of Dorothy Cotton, a civil rights activist. We’re a co-ed group that sings spirituals and gospel hymns as an homage to the musical tradition that resulted from chattell slavery. We produce a darker and heavier tone in most of our songs, but have solos that require an operatic tone or belting. The group is unique in that it is made up of local Ithacans, and Cornell and Ithaca College faculty, staff and students. Some members bring along their children and younger family members to practice, so that members range from age 2 to age 65-plus. I’ve been in the choir for two and a half semesters, but will remember it forever— there is an indescribable warmth that comes about when singing with grandparents.
If I could be born in any place at any time in history, I’d be born in Spain during the 1980s. I’d get to grow up in my favorite country (besides my home country of Burkina Faso) during my favorite fashion decade (1990s). What more could a girl want?
I’ve wanted to study in Spain since high school. I’ve been planning my semester abroad since my sophomore fall at Cornell and decided to go during my senior fall.
I went with Syracuse University and was the only Cornellian in the Madrid program. I had imagined a program of around 30 students, mostly coming from different schools who would “conquer Europe together.” My heart skipped a beat upon realizing that this program consisted of 97 students, mostly from Syracuse, who travelled in cliques. I typically love surprises, but this one was tough to take.
Being without friends in a foreign country was not ideal. But, I found true comfort in the most unexpected people — my teachers, advisers, co-workers and host-mom. The two friends I managed to make in the program taught me the value of being unapologetically myself as we laughed and cried our way through the semester. We travelled to different destinations, recognizing that cultural immersion could cure our homesickness.
Besides visiting monuments, I took a flamenco dance class, learned to cook four Spanish specialties, including paella and tortilla de patata, visited the Real Madrid fútbol stadium and attended an Afro-Spanish fair.
I spent most of undergrad dreaming about going to Spain and much of my senior year reminiscing about my time there. I’m thankful to have gone and wouldn’t change the experience — especially the surprises — for anything.
The Cornell Bucket List
Virtually every Cornell first-year student hears about the “Cornell Daily Sun” bucket list during their first semester on campus. There are 161 items on the list of “to dos.” If 161 things seem like a lot to do in four years, that’s because it is. In my four years on campus, I haven’t met a Cornellian who has completed all the recommendations. That isn’t surprising, considering number 73 on the list is:
“Following the legend, watch a virgin cross the Arts Quad at midnight and watch A.D. White and Ezra Cornell walk toward each other and shake hands.”
I’ve unintentionally completed 30-plus things on the list---I had no desire of crossing them off my non-existent personal Cornell bucket list.
But, I must admit that canoeing on Beebe Lake and participating in a Cornell Outdoor Education ropes course were truly highlights of my time at Cornell.
Other honorable mentions of things I’ve done include:
- Go on a wine tour
- Learn the “Alma Mater,” “Evening Song” and “Give My Regards to Davy”
- Have dinner at a professor’s house
- Hand out quartercards on Ho Plaza
- See a film at Cornell Cinema
Unfortunately, having to leave campus in the middle of my senior spring semester means that I wasn’t able to scramble in getting several things crossed off the bucket list during the final weeks of the semester. Being surrounded by the flat concrete of New York City since March 18 has led me to miss Cornell’s campus more than I ever thought I would -- from the waterfalls and sunsets on the slope to the Africana library and the Latino Studies lounge in Rockefeller Hall.
Seeing as a few weeks wouldn’t have been enough time to do the remaining 130 things on the list, I had to cut the list down:
- Order ice cream at the Dairy Bar
- Listen to a full chimes concert from the clock tower and guess the songs played
- Go bowling at Helen Newman Lanes
- Take part in Holi and get colorful
- Climb all 161 steps to the top of McGraw Tower
- Go to the Fuertes Observatory on North Campus and look through a telescope
- Take Plant Pathology 2010: Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds
- Wear flip-flops to class in January
- Attend an opening at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
- Take a selfie with a Cornell president
Grace performing a solo with the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers at the group's annual holiday concert in the fall of 2018.
Grace visited Sage Chapel a few days before campus closed in March.
"One thing’s for sure, as soon as I get back to campus, I will be singing in Sage Chapel. I will hopefully get to serenade my parents in the chapel as they’ve never been able to come to my singing concerts at Cornell."
I figured that this just happened to be a cloudy day, and that spring semester weather was usually sunny.
Well, sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything less from a school in upstate New York. Besides, having such little access to vitamin D means more orange juice for me.
Living in a limbo between spring and winter has led me to adapt to a set of truisms during a period I’ve come to call spring-ter.
Spring-ter is not seeing the sun for weeks at a time
Springt-er is falling on ice in your driveway in March
Spring-ter is when the sun, 60-degree weather, snow and leafless trees co-exist
Spring-ter is experiencing sunny, rainy and snowy weather all within the same day
Spring-ter is a snowy winter wonderland in April
ILRie By Coincidence
I’m here by coincidence. I’m here because I happened to check the yes box, happened to read my college mail – for once.
My senior fall at LaGuardia Arts High School was full of performances. With classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., combined with extracurriculars, such as the step team and the Lincoln-Douglas debate team, and late night rehearsals, I couldn’t bring myself to read mail when arriving home after midnight.